The Roman Empire
Herod Antipas

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - JUDAEAN (4th CENT BC - 2st CENT AD) JUDAEA Herod Antipas, 4 BC-AD 39
Design Description: Herod Antipas Half Unit
Item Description: AE Half-Denom. Judaea palm/inscription+wreath yr.37 (AD 32/3 or 33/4)
Full Grade: NGC XF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 2/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

As Rome’s very first Emperor, Augustus grappled with not only the question of his own succession, but also that of his client kings. A noteworthy instance occurred upon the death of Herod the Great, whose last will decreed his Judaean realm be divided among various successors. Of course, Augustus had the final say - it was his prerogative to ratify his subordinate’s recommendations. Expectedly, Herodian family members residing in Rome were keen to provide Augustus their input. Also expectedly, Herod’s sons travelled to the eternal city to pitch the Emperor their own preferred visions for Judaea’s future. A bitter power struggle ensued between Herod’s eldest son, Herod Archelaus, and another son, Herod Antipater (before 20 BC – after 39 AD), also known as Herod Antipas or Antipas. Although Herod’s last will advised that Archelaus serve as future king of Judaea and Samaria, a previous version designated Antipas. Also surviving Herod and having a stake in these developments were a third son, Philip, and a sister, Salome I. After hearing all the arguments and weighing the available information, the judicious Augustus decided that none of the claimants deserved the title of king. Herod’s lands were split into a tetrarchy, effectively abolishing the Judaean monarchy.

Having failed to sway Augustus, Antipas found himself a tetrarch ruling over Galilee and Peraea, as well as the Jewish portion of Transjordan. While presumably disappointed at lacking a royal title, Antipas evidently made the most of the opportunity. Like Herod his father, Antipas was a prolific builder. The newly appointed tetrarch greatly expanded and renovated Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, renaming it Autocratoris in honor or Rome’s supreme imperator. Even more impressive, Antipas built a new capital on the Sea of Galilee, an undertaking that lasted beyond Augustus’ reign. In honor of Rome’s second Emperor, Antipas named his new capital Tiberias.

Antipas established a mint at Tiberias, where he struck this ancient bronze, described as a half unit, probably equivalent to a Roman as. Respecting the customs of the Jewish majority residing in his territories, Antipas avoided portraits and graven images as numismatic devices. The obverse of this coin bears the unassuming design of a wreath encircling an inscription that verifies the origin - TIBE PIAC. The reverse depicts an upright palm branch accompanied by Antipas’ epithet, HPΩΔOY TETPAPXOY. The additional inscription L ΛΓ denotes the strike date as year 37 of Antipas’ reign (corresponding to sometime in 33 or 34 AD). Although relatively unusual at the time, Antipas struck dates on all his coins.

Beyond construction projects and coinage, Antipas is most famous - or infamous, rather – for biblical accounts of his dealings with certain troublesome Galileans. A prominent instance involved a popular preacher who condemned Antipas’ decision to divorce first wife (Phasaelis, Daughter of Aretas IV, Rome’s client king ruling Nabataea) in favor of marrying his cousin Herodias. The disapproving preacher, best known as John the Baptist, was taken into custody. Antipas was reluctant to prosecute, until his stepdaughter Salome II danced her way into compelling the prisoner’s decapitation. Another prominent instance transpired several years later, when Roman prefect Pontius Pilate sought Antipas’ support to punish a troublesome Galilean named Jesus. After a period of rigorous, but non-productive interrogation, Antipas returned the ridiculed prisoner back to Pilate for sentencing.

Non-flattering biblical depictions aside, Antipas was a successful administrator. Even though tasked with a notoriously refractory population, Antipas managed to avoid any armed rebellions under his watch. Impressively, Antipas’ reign lasted more than four decades, surpassing the tenures of aunt Salome I and brother Philip (their lands reverted back to Rome upon their deaths), not to mention brother Archelaus (who didn’t reign even a single decade before being sacked by Augustus for incompetence).

Despite his decades of serving the Empire, the venerable tetrarch was overlooked by Emperor Caligula when the latter crowned Antipas’ cousin, Herod Agrippa I, client king over lands previously ruled by Philip. Jealous of his cousin’s crown, Antipas once again made his pitch to Rome’s Emperor regarding his own worthiness for a royal upgrade. Unfortunately for Antipas, the ambitious Herod Agrippa I threw his uncle under the carpentum, accusing him of treason against Rome. Not surprisingly, Antipas was passed over for promotion. Instead, he was exiled, and Caligula turned over Antipas’ wealth and lands to Herod Agrippa I.

Coin Details: JUDAEA, Herodians, Herod III Antipas, 4 BCE-39 CE, Æ Half Unit (17.5mm, 3.93 g, 12h), Tiberias mint, Dated RY 37 (33/4 CE), NGC Grade: XF, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 2/5, Obverse: Wreath, TIBE PIAC, Reverse: Palm branch, HPΩΔOY TETPAPXOY, L-ΛZ (date), References: Meshorer 88; Hendin 1212; RPC I 4931.

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